Who would have guessed that pilot season's hottest project would be American Idol.
ABC is near a deal with FremantleMedia, Idol's producers, to bring the long-running Fox singing competition back to TV, according to Variety. The revived Idol will reportedly be slotted into ABC's schedules in March on Sunday night, a place where the network has struggled in recent years. (However, Variety's report also mentions ABC's desire to use Idol to compete with NBC'sSunday Night Football. The NFL season ends in early February.) The show's return is expected to be announced during ABC's upfront presentation on May 16.
The news comes after a flurry of reports about Fremantle's shopping of the once-popular reality franchise. Rumors of the show's return began almost immediately after its conclusion on Fox last May, with NBC the early candidate to bring the show back to help elongate the life of its own singing competition, The Voice. NBC seemed to have an advantage given its exclusive contract with Simon Cowell, former Idol judge and current producer of NBC's summer reality hit, America's Got Talent, but negotiations fell apart in February.
Earlier this week, TMZ reported that ABC had jumped into the fray. Although an ABC version of Idol won't involve Cowell, who has an exclusive contract with NBC, it could potentially see the return of host Ryan Seacrest, who just this week was revealed to be the new co-host of Live With Kelly Ripa. There's yet to be an indication that Seacrest will actually return, particularly given that his new gig is in New York and Idol has always filmed in Los Angeles.
Idol aired on Fox for 15 seasons from 2002-2016. It was consistently one of, if not the, highest-rated shows on television, until constant overturn with judges, competition from other, newer singing shows and the decline of live viewing caused its ratings to sink significantly. Still, the series averaged around 11 million viewers in each of its two weekly airings in 2016, making it a Top 25 show across all television, including cable.